Nicole Mackenzie

My name is Nicole Mackenzie, 20, from Portsmouth and I received a kidney back in March 2009 from my Dad.

I was first diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease when I was 3 years old which was caused by Renal Artery Stenosis which is the narrowing of arteries that carry blood to both of the kidneys.

Luckily, I didn’t need dialysis, however I was on a restricted diet and throughout the next 8 years I would have routine check-ups every 1-2 months at the Southampton General Hospital.

The whole experience of having Chronic Kidney Disease made me constantly feel tired, I had pale skin and was very skinny as I didn’t have much of appetite.

I was missing out on quite a lot of my education due to check-ups or being admitted in to hospital.

In 2008 my parents were tested for potential donors and both results came back as suitable matches. In march 2009 I had my kidney transplant at the age of 11 which took place under the Evelina Children’s hospital and the Guys hospital in London.

I was very nervous in the lead up to my transplant, I remember having counselling with someone at Southampton who showed me the whole process before and after which did make me more relaxed. This was after all going be my second surgery, my first being when I was 3 years old, and it was my dad’s first surgery so we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

Soon after my transplant my renal consultant, Grainne Walsh, introduced me to the transplant games. I have attended the British Games every year since my first games in Coventry 2009. Swimming was a sport that I’d been doing from a very young age, soon after I was diagnosed with renal failure, and that’s what I tend to compete in at the games.

I was on the Evelina children’s team up until 2015, and I now compete as an adult on the Portsmouth team. I currently have 40 gold, 6 silver and 4 bronze British medals. I also love competing abroad which is why I also go to the European transplant Games. I have been to the past 3 European games which were in Poland 2014, Finland 2016 and Italy 2018. I currently have 14 Gold, 5 silver, and 2 bronze European medals.

I have also been fortunate to be selected to represent my country at World Transplant Games every two years.  I have competed in 3 world transplant games which were in Sweden 2011, South Africa 2013, and Spain 2017. I currently have 18 gold world medals and currently hold 14 world records. Worlds in Spain last year was definitely my most successful year, coming away with 7 gold medals and breaking 5 world records was a dream come true. One of those world records was in the 50m freestyle, which had been stood for 28 years since 1989.

To some it’s about the medals and the colour of them, to me it’s my own personal achievements such as that, that mean more to me, the medals are just a bonus.

What’s next for me is that summer 2019 I will be competing again at the British Transplant Games being held in Newport then shortly after I will be heading to Newcastle for the World Transplant Games.

Organ donation seriously changed my life for the better, I can still lead a normal day to day life and continue to take part in sport and develop my career.

The Games have allowed me to meet the most inspiring people I have ever met, both from this country and overseas. I have made lifelong friends by going to these games as you can easily relate to other transplant patients as they have gone through similar experiences as you.

None of this would have been possible without organ donation. I know for some it may not be a nice subject to talk about, for those having to make that decision for their loved one who has just passed. But for those on the organ transplant waiting list they are waiting for that all important phone call, which can be years.

I do urge people to sign up to the organ donor register and to tell the ones close to you your wishes, this is so important as your family can still stop you from donating your organs when you are no longer with us, even when you’re on the register, so please have that conversation.

Best Wishes

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